Superintendent Search Update

We’re quickly coming to the end of the Board’s search for a new CEO of Jeffco Schools. The district’s Superintendent Search website shows the Jeffco School Board is still on track to announce one or more finalists the week of May 1.

What We Know So Far

On Wednesday, the hired search firm, Ray & Associates (R&A), released data about the search thus far. R&A initially contacted 825 potential candidates, representing 46 states. Sixty-nine people submitted applications, with the size and location of Jeffco attracting significant attention.

R&A evaluated and screened applicants based on the strength of their administrative experience and academic background, then focused on the qualities and criteria Jeffco wants in its next leader. The top candidates were then given a comprehensive interview by R&A  and thoroughly investigated through references, state officials, other school administrators and people who knew them.

Eleven candidates — representing Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Tennessee — qualified for additional consideration. At the end of tomorrow night’s board meeting (which begins at 5 pm), board members will hold an executive session to learn the names of and discuss these candidates. However, they also have the ability to review all applications received, not just those R&A has pre-selected. We recall from one of the community forums hosted by R&A that board members will also have a chance to view video responses from each candidate to a series of questions.

Next Steps

On April 26, board members will interview the candidates they select tomorrow night.

When asked recently about the public’s role in this process, Jeffco Chief Human Resources Officer Amy Weber said that board members and the district want a process that ensures the deepest pool of qualified candidates, and many of the potential candidates have expressed a need for confidentiality.

Other Jeffco School Board Agenda Items

Also on the Board’s agenda tomorrow night:

If you cannot attend the meeting in person, you can  watch the live stream. Videos of the meetings are also available there to view later.

JeffCo Proud!

State Funding vs. Property Taxes: Why We Need 3A and 3B

Have you found yourself thinking about how your property taxes were higher this year and wondering why school districts across Colorado, including Jeffco Schools, are asking for more money in mill and bond requests like 3A and 3B?

We have answers. Read on!

Believe it or not, both of these things are true:

  1. Property taxes in Jeffco increased due to increased home values in the area.
  2. State school funding remained largely flat.

In Jeffco, state funding for the 2016-17 year increased 1.2 percent over 2015-16 funding, as reported in Jeffco’s 2016-17 Dollars and Sense brochure. Inflation, however, has been measured at 2.8 percent on the Front Range and is predicted to be at 2.6 percent this year.

When we say state funding has remained “largely flat” what we mean is that sometimes — such as this year–it isn’t even keeping up with inflation, which means less money for classrooms, for maintaining facilities, and for keeping pay competitive.

What’s worse is that even though the housing market is booming and taxes are up, the Denver Post reported last month that 2017-18 budget cuts may be on the way:

Colorado’s state budget faces a potential deficit this fiscal year, economic forecasters told state lawmakers Tuesday, as tax revenues continue to fall short of previous expectations.

If true, that would mean cuts to K-12 funding for 2017-18, and potentially mid-year cuts this year.

Let’s repeat that: despite a booming economy and increased property taxes, Jeffco Schools could see mid-year budget cuts this year.

That was the news a week ago. A few days ago Chalkbeat report Nic Garcia tweeted that the state budget chief now thinks that won’t happen. However, we won’t know more until the budget forecast is released at the beginning of November.

Here’s how school funding can remain flat even though your taxes increased:

StateLocalfunding

It’s pretty simple: the state uses more of your local taxes to fund your schools and decreases their share to use elsewhere in the budget. Mill levy override funds, on the other hand, aren’t part of the equation. All money from 3A and 3B stays in Jeffco and puts additional money in all our schools — charter, option, or neighborhood — and does so equitably. All students benefit.

Money from 3A becomes part of the operating budget; money from 3B is specifically for facilities, including capital maintenance, new construction, and school additions.

This chart that shows Jeffco’s state funding for the past several years. Note that 2016-17 funding is a mere $167 more than it was in 2009-2010.

statefunding

If state funding was keeping up with inflation, our students should be receiving $7,956 this year — $719 more than actual funding levels.

That’s why school funding needs a grassroots effort — in this case, 3A and 3B.

This graphic shows the difference that mill levy override funding makes for students. Boulder and Denver voters have approved many more 3A dollars for their students, which means their districts have more dollars for the classroom every year.

fundingcomp

Also, we’ve seen some crazy posts complaining that money from 3B isn’t being used to target student achievement. First, the law dictates that 3B money has to be used for facilities. Second, students learn better when they’re not being distracted by cold air from drafty windows, chilly classrooms from outdated HVAC systems, or water dripping into a bucket in their classroom because the leaky roof hasn’t been fixed. It’s just common sense.

A few other points:

1.  Yes, it would be nice if the state would get rid of the negative factor and restore that money to schools. But it hasn’t happened despite intense lobbying from Colorado’s superintendents, advocacy groups like Great Education Colorado, and individual citizens.

Instead, more cuts are predicted. Are we content to sit by and watch our school budgets get slashed again, or can we do better for our students? Our answer: by voting Yes on 3A and 3B Jeffco can do better.

2.  Marijuana money won’t dig us out of the funding hole. In fact, Jeffco isn’t receiving any pot tax. It isn’t and won’t help us with the current issues.

3.  Last, don’t forget that there is a cost to doing nothing in Jeffco. The leaky roofs won’t miraculously repair themselves. The cost to educate students and maintain our facilities won’t decrease if we choose to ignore it. We’ll talk about that more in another post.

Want one more reason? Watch Jeffco Economic Development Corporation Chair David Jones explain why the JEDC endorsed 3A 3B:

Please vote Yes on 3A and 3B, and then get those ballots in. Use this graphic to encourage others to vote by Nov. 8.

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JeffCo Proud!

Jeffco 3A & 3B Basics: Understanding the Bond

This is the second post in our series on understanding why the Jeffco School Board is asking for a mill and bond this year. Today’s post focuses on 3B, the bond.

How did we get here?

First, we’ll remind you that funding – or lack thereof – has been the biggest challenge for a number of years. You may remember this graph:

NegativeFactorWithout the negative factor, Jeffco Schools would have received $481 million more from the state during the past five years. Instead, Jeffco has been making do with less, while simultaneously petitioning legislators to reduce the negative factor and put that money back into schools. In real terms, this means we’ve been deferring maintenance, and that backlog is growing.

In addition, although Jeffco home values are at an all-time high, the resulting increase in your property taxes has not increased Jeffco’s funding. Instead, the state puts more of those taxes into schools, but then takes an equal amount of state funds to use elsewhere in the budget, as you can see in the graph below.

StateLocalfundingMill levy override funds are different. They stay in Jeffco and lead to increased per-pupil funding.

In 2012, we passed a $99 million bond to address the most urgent facilities needs like new roofs, HVAC systems and more. Those needs have been addressed — on time and within budget — but they only fixed Jeffco’s Tier 1 needs. We still had hundreds of millions of dollars of Tier 2-5 needs for our schools and facilities, and even more urgent maintenance issues have built up in the last four years.

Part of the issue is that our schools are, on average, 45 years old. Plumbing, roofs, HVAC systems, windows, fire alarm systems, and more are aging and need to be replaced. Every single school in Jeffco needs some sort of maintenance.

You’ve probably also read that Jeffco Schools was testing for lead in school pipes recently. They found lead that exceeded federal standards in about 8 percent of the fixtures tested so far. Jeffco Schools is now taking steps to fix this, but it’s another indication that our schools are aging, and we need funding that can adequately address these critical maintenance issues.

What will the bond do?

  • Upgrade old schools with updated security systems
  • Provide new schools in areas where Jeffco is growing. Our school district has not had a bond to fund new construction since 2004 when voters approved a $323.8 million bond.
  • Allow the district to address the repair backlog of leaky roofs, faulty wiring and more by improving, updating, and repairing 110 schools, including updating technology and lab spaces.
  • Renovate and construct additions at 45 schools and facilities to add more classroom space
  • Replace four current aging facilities
  • Construct three new elementary schools.

You can read more about the bond outline here and read the final facilities master plan here.

Want to know how your school will benefit? Jeffco Schools has an interactive web page that allows you to access information about your child’s school, schools in your neighborhood, and schools that you might be considering in the future.

This is also a good time for the district to consider a bond. Bond interest rates are some of the lowest we’ve seen in the last several decades, making this a cost-effective time to borrow.

We’ve also heard people asking why we can’t just convince the state to provide more funding. The short answer is that we’ve petitioned our legislators to do just that for many years, session after session, and it’s not happening. Superintendents around the state have advocated, as in this 2014 letter.

This year, the superintendents sent another letter, and a rally was held at the state capitol where superintendents and school supporters alike filled the room to show support. This writer was at that rally. It didn’t work.

Eagle Schools Superintendent Jason Glass summarized the issue nicely in a recent column: 

To make a long story short, this “negative factor” cuts nearly $1 billion from Colorado’s schools annually and accounts for an accumulated $40 million in cuts to [Eagle County schools] alone.*

I’d like to say that Colorado is on its way toward restoring these cuts. Alas, the cavalry is not on the way from the state. The plain, cold reality is that without a local solution, our schools will never return to pre-recession levels.

*JCSBW note: that amount is about $80 million per year in Jeffco, for an accumulated $481 million in cuts so far.

What we can — and must — do is create our own solutions. In Jeffco, the cost is reasonable: $4.12 per month for every $100,000 of home value. For a $300,000 home, that’s about $150 a year to fund our school facilities and programming, and protect our home values.

We can support our Jeffco students by providing safe, well-maintained classrooms and buildings. We can make sure our Jeffco Schools continue to be some of the best in the area. We can make a better future for our students and our community.

3A3B

Also don’t forget to head over to Support Jeffco Schools to volunteer to help the Yes on 3A/3B campaign if you haven’t already.

JeffCo Proud!

 

Jeffco 3A & 3B Basics: Understanding the Mill Levy Override

3A3B

This fall, we’re going to post a series of articles explaining the basics of the mill levy override and bond, 3A and 3B, so you can understand how the board members came to their decisions. We support both measures.

Today, we’d like to spell out the basics of 3A, the mill levy override.

Funding — or lack thereof —is the primary driver. The short version is that state funding is a big challenge. Due to the negative factor, Jeffco Schools has received $481 million less from Colorado than was supposed to be budgeted.

NegativeFactor

Jeffco is also not receiving any of the marijuana money that was budgeted. That’s going to other districts, mostly small and rural, for facility maintenance and construction.

Several forecasts also suggest Jeffco Schools could be facing more cuts for 2017-18. If that happens, 3A dollars will be used first to backfill those cuts and maintain programs.

The mill levy override, 3A, would provide an additional $33 million in funding that would benefit all Jeffco Schools: neighborhood, option, and charter.

It will be split so that Jeffco neighborhood and options schools receive $29.7 million, and charter schools receive 10 percent, $3.3 million. Those numbers mirror the percent of Jeffco students enrolled in neighborhood, option, and charter schools.

If state funding remains stable, the $33 million will be used to expand learning opportunities, update security, and to retain and attract excellent teachers. Here’s what the board prioritized in their meetings this summer:

  • $12.6 million – compensation to retain and recruit excellent teachers
  • $3.7 million – mental health support for schools, including a half-time counselor at every elementary school
  • $800,000 – additional support for security and emergency management, including increasing personnel, supporting ongoing crisis prevention and intervention training programs, support supplies, and software purchases
  • $12.2 million – increased Student Based Budgeting funding in all schools, including extra support for small schools who are challenged by the current SBB process. This will allow schools the flexibility to enhance education for their students.
  • $400,000 – increased support services, like the additional custodians and supplies that will be needed when the new schools open, and additional district building techs
  • The remaining $3.3 million will go to charter schools, whose boards will decide how to allocate the funds to enhance teaching, programming, and more.

You can read more about the mill levy override priorities here and read the full ballot text here.

Together, 3A and 3B will cost $4.12 per month for every $100,000 of home value. For a $300,000 home, that’s about $150 a year.

We’ve waited a long time for state funding to bounce back after the economy recovered. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s not going to happen.

Now we have a choice. We can create our own solutions and vote to support our Jeffco students in safe, well-maintained classrooms and buildings. We can vote to provide funding that allows us to attract and retain excellent teachers. We can make a difference.

Vote yes on 3A and 3B, and remember to tell your friends. Spreading the word on your social media of choice also helps, so please share this post.

We’d also like to remind everyone that the Yes on 3A and 3B campaign need volunteers to help in the coming weeks, as well as donations to help pay for signs and other campaign materials. If you can help, please head over to the Support Jeffco Schools website and sign up there.

Jeffco Proud!

What you need to know for the 6.16.16 BOE meeting

The World Is Run By Those Who Show UpThe Jeffco School Board met on Tuesday to talk about feedback regarding the proposed facilities master plan and give direction to the staff. It was a 7-hour meeting and nearly impossible to briefly summarize, but we’ll do our best.

Why do you need the summary? Because they’re going to vote on these items tonight at 5:30 pm. You can sign up for public comment, and we encourage you to do so if you have strong feelings about any of these items.

Tuesday’s meeting started with a review of TABOR, led by a representative from the Colorado State University Colorado Futures Center. You can look at the presentation here, but the long and short of it is that TABOR has negatively impacted school funding and in districts like Jeffco, taxpayers are now paying more taxes to fund schools than they would have if TABOR hadn’t been enacted. In addition, our schools are being funded at lower levels than they would have otherwise.

Then board members dived into the meat of the discussion: directions for staff regarding the proposed Facilities Master Plan. Two main points stand out:

  1. There is support for moving to a K-5, 6-8 model, but only if it’s done across the district at the same time. Feedback indicated that the community was open to a district-wide change, and board members largely indicated they would support it as well. Staff adjusted the plan accordingly, and with the exception of Jefferson and Alameda, the new plan reflects a K-5, 6-8 configuration, with additions or new buildings planning for that configuration as well.
  2. Board members are very reluctant to close any schools yet, though they are also concerned about balancing budget concerns with the budget challenges posed by smaller schools in aging buildings. Most wanted to see the district work with the school, perhaps to offer programming that might draw kids from the neighborhood back, or to do other work to otherwise give them a chance to grow again.
  3. Budget projects for the future are concerning and funding cuts may be on the way. Jeffco’s lobbyist told the board earlier that he thought funding that reflected inflation + enrollment would be an “optimistic” projection. As a result, the desire to be proactive and financially efficient while also meeting the needs of learning communities is a central point of this conversation.

A few other notes: according to Jeffco’s Communications Director, Diana Wilson, about 800 people participated in the 12 community forums and about 1,100 participated in the telephone town halls. She also pointed out the questionnaire was only to solicit input. (Also note that her department was posting all of the feedback they received, usually shortly after receiving it, and those should all be available for the public to review on the Jeffco Schools facilities master plan page.)

Now, the play-by-play, in an abbreviated fashion.

The board first talked about the proposed K-5, 6-8 configuration. Opportunities include the opportunity for sixth graders to have more access to clubs, electives, advanced math, access to teachers with degrees in math for struggling students, science classrooms, more art, music, theater, and more opportunities that better reflect the “whole child” concept in the Jeffco 20/20 plan.

Concerns include budgets and social readiness, among others. However, staff is recommending a two-year transition plan that would start with a school’s 4th grade students and families. That would allow families time to think about choice enrollment and also allow schools time to plan for what their budget will look like as a K-5 school.

Specific dates for grade reconfiguration weren’t mentioned, though the two-year transition plan suggests that the earliest date for reconfiguration would be 2018-19. If the reconfiguration is to roll out district-wide, that could be even later, since some of the middle schools would require an addition in order to fully accommodate the 6th graders. Terry Elliot mentioned a “rolling implementation,” though board members said they didn’t want to see “piecemeal” reconfigurations.

Student-based budgeting concerns were also addressed. The short version is that SBB models would continue to be flexible. The current model works best with schools of about 500 students and is problematic with elementary schools under 300 students; however, both Superintendent McMinimee and board members made it clear that they didn’t want to see schools negatively impacted. McMinimee said those numbers might change, and that the district might nee to find additional money in other places, perhaps from efficiencies in the district level or a mill levy override, to put additional dollars into SBB.

Board members were especially interested in hearing about how details like art, music, and PE teachers would be accommodated if schools lost a grade, and making sure that elementary schools don’t take a hit with the new reconfiguration. Ron Mitchell accurately noted that the devil is in the details, and that a lot of work will need to be done to make sure we’re not leaving 6th graders in limbo.

Amanda Stevens also asked how this change would affect schools in the Jefferson and Alameda areas that adopted a K-6, 7-12 model last year. The short answer is that those schools would maintain that configuration. There are no plans to move 6th graders to the 7-12 schools.

Here’s the area-by-area breakdown of BOE recommendations. We’re only noting the areas where board members disagreed with current staff recommendations or areas where the staff specifically asked for directions from the board.

  • Alameda

The board wants to keep both Patterson and Kendrick Lakes open, and recommended deferred maintenance for Patterson and a new 576 seat K-5 school for Kendrick Lakes.

  • Arvada

The board agreed with the staff’s new proposal to add six classrooms to Arvada K-8 so that all schools in the area could reconfigure to K-5, 6-8. Brad Rupert also said that Foster had specifically requested the opportunity to stay a K-6 school because of their dual-language program, and the board appeared open to that recommendation as well.

  • Arvada West

The board recommended keeping both Allendale and Campbell open, though this also presents challenges due to space limitations at one site and low enrollment at the other. Allendale’s capacity is 275, and Campbell’s is 365.

Amanda Stevens wanted to hear more about pathways to keeping the small schools sustainable. Ali Lasell wanted to make sure that closures are a last resort, done only after we’ve exhausted all other options. Brad Rupert also expressed concerns that those areas could start growing again as new families move into the area.

Deferred maintenance or a major renovation (though not addition) are possibilities for Campbell. Deferred maintenance, a new school, a major renovation or even an addition could be possibilities at Allendale. The board needed to know more numbers, but was pretty clear that they’re not ready to close schools yet.

  • Bear Creek

The board was comfortable with cabinet recommendations, though they suggested a new Green Gables School might be a better option than a renovation.

  • Chatfield

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Columbine

The board wanted to see more deferred maintenance done on Dutch Creek to make the school more competitive with its neighbors.

  • Conifer

OK with cabinet recommendations, though noted that Conifer HS is the only high school without an auditorium and that the addition of one is an equity item.

  • Dakota Ridge

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Evergreen

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Golden

Not willing to close Pleasant View yet. “Closing a school to me is a last resort, and it is a last resort after we have exhausted all efforts,” Lasell said.

  • Green Mountain

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Jefferson

Of note: a phased rebuild is proposed for Jefferson High School. Other suggestions included something like Warren Tech “East” offerings in the area for students.

  • Lakewood

The board recommends keeping Glennon Heights open and considering a boundary change from a nearby school that’s currently over capacity.

  • Pomona

The Little/Parr consolidation also met with a fair amount of discussion. Board members aren’t willing to close either school yet, in part because this is another area that might see growth in the next few years.

Parr attracts a number of students who live just across the street from the Jeffco boundary (in Westminster 50), for whom Parr is a much closer school. Parr also has approximately 100 preschool students. Little has more students and a vocal community that wants to keep that site open as well.

The board’s preference seems to be to keep both school open and build a new 576-seat school at the Parr site, which is a larger site that allows the district to build while keeping students in the current school during construction.

  • Ralston Valley

There was a question about whether an additional high school is needed, but the answer is no, not until there were enough new feeder schools to fill it. They also recommend keeping the proposed Leyden Rock school a priority for phase I.

  • Standley Lake

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Wheat Ridge

Here again, the board was reluctant to close any schools yet. Current recommendations are that Kullerstrand stays open and Prospect Valley gets a new school. The board was also in favor of keeping Vivian and Stober open, though those sites present some challenges. Among them: Stober students may need to go offsite for a year in order to renovate or build a new building.

  • Options Schools

Long View will have deferred maintenance for now, and they’ll begin longer discussions about that site in the fall.

 

The last discussion was about a potential mill levy override. Staff presented a list of funding priorities. The first was a potential backfill if the state does in fact cut funding in the next year or two. However, several possibilities were also listed for what the new funding could bring (assuming state funding remains stable):

  • mental health support for schools
  • security and emergency management
  • student-based budget (suggested at $200/student/year)
  • technology
  • compensation
  • charter school needs (note: charters will get full share of the mill levy override automatically; this would be an additional amount above that specifically dedicated to charter school needs)
  • activities and athletics
  • fees (athletics, Outdoor Lab, transportation)
  • full day kindergarten
  • support services

Tonight’s meeting starts at 5:30 pm in the Board Room. If you can’t be there, you can stream the meeting. We know these are big decisions, so we hope to see a lot of you there and voicing your opinion. If you think Jeffco should go ahead with a mill levy override on the ballot, board members need to know that. They also need to know what you would support (or wouldn’t support) as funding priorities.

If you think they need to stick to just asking for a bond to support construction, tell them. If you are concerned about one of the schools that was suggested for closure, be sure to tell them. There are big decisions and challenges ahead, and board members need to hear your voices to know how best to move forward.

Jeffco Proud!